Change is the buzz word today, not just in management circles but also in the sphere of life and spirituality. Management Guru Peter Drucker states, "We now accept the fact that learning is a lifelong process of keeping abreast of change. And the most pressing task is to teach people how to learn".
However it is important to know when to change and how to change. In Harvard Business Review on Change, Collins and Porras states, "Truly great companies understand the difference between what should never change and what should be open for change, between what is genuinely sacred and what is not. This rare ability to manage continuity and change - requiring a consciously practiced discipline- is closely linked to the ability to develop a vision." Well here they are taking of vision and core ideology, but this statement suits very well also to another aspect of an organization, namely laid down processes. Yes, a change that is not desired is an arbitrary change in a well laid down and validated process, without validation and approval.
I am reminded of a joke shared by a colleague of us from Holland. He said if you ask a Chinese person to cross a road and go the house across the road, he would follow the route laid out day after day for ages; while if you ask an Indian to do that he would follow the instruction for the first day, the second day he will jump over the wall, and in due course he will make a hole in the wall. He will do everything to change the process using his intellect. While change is good, making changes without the customer approval or not validating the effects of change, could be dangerous.
I also think that it's a myth that it's an Indian problem, I have been working with Chinese teams as well and do notice some people, and especially the "know it all" ones are the ones who deviate first. Following process is not being bookish or bureaucratic but just being consistent and sensible. While there are people who change process without rhyme or reason, on the other extreme are people who will never deviate come what may. Typically we see such inflexible behaviors while dealing with government offices, foreign embassies and some times while calling up customer service centers. For example I wanted to know if my land papers mortgaged with a bank has been received by the local bank to enable me collect the same, since I had cleared the loan. The person refused to give me that information, because the land was registered in my wife's name. I was not asking for the papers, I only wanted to know if the papers had arrived at the local branch, so that we could collect the same.
Following process is not being bookish or bureaucratic but just being consistent and sensible.
I realize that the response is based on the person's knowledge of process and repercussions of actions, as well as the ability or maturity to escalate the matter. Adequate training and maturity is required to make sure that the processes are not deviated and also to know when deviations can be made and how they should be handled. Even a cook in a restaurant preparing fried rice will have to follow the process and be consistent. Customers come to the restaurant because they like the taste, if the cook varies the style every day, people will not be sure of what to expect. However if the cook has a bright idea, trials could be made, feedback obtained and the cooking process improved and institutionalized so that the new process is followed consistently. Now the satisfaction level increases, so do the expectation levels and the customers are not going to accept fried rice hence forth as per the old process.
The bottom line is when we are working with organizations, we are not trying to create heroes and live in their glory, but we are trying to build robust process that will work for the organization; but the key is to adhere to the process and improve it continuously.
Pradeep Kumar E.T, A Master Black Belt in Six Sigma , is the Country Manager- Operational Excellence with Tyco Electronics Corporation India Pvt Ltd. Feedback can be e- mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org
Issue BG70 Jan07